1920-1930: Findlay’s golden years
By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
The 1920s were golden years in Findlay.
World War I was over and the post-war depression was brief. It was not long before the community was back on its feet.
New industry was arriving, the school system was expanding and the population, which had dwindled during the 1910s, returned to the 17,000 mark.
The chamber of commerce was established at the start of the decade to take the place of the old Findlay Business Men’s Association and Findlay Commerce Club. “Findlay to the Front” became the organization’s war cry. An electric sign bearing the slogan was placed on the Main Street bridge.
The chamber was responsible for bringing the Bluffton Manufacturing Co. here in 1928. The company had outgrown its facilities in Bluffton, where it had been located for nearly 30 years. Operations were moved into the former Adams Axle plant on West Main Cross Street. The company produced washing machines, gasoline engines and cream separators.
The Central Rubber Reclaiming Co., San-A-Pure Dairy and a Penney’s department store also came to Findlay in the 1920s.
National Lime and Stone had its beginnings in the community, as well. The Hancock Stone Co. was purchased by Bluffton and Lewisburg Stone, and the name was later changed to National Lime and Stone.
In 1926, the controlling interest in the Findlay Daily Courier newspaper was sold to the Findlay Publishing Co., owner of the Morning Republican paper. Both newspapers continued in business. The Courier offices were moved to the Morning Republican building on Broadway.
In the mid-1920s, Ohio Oil Co. entered the refining and marketing field through the purchase of the Lincoln Oil Refining Co. of Robinson, Ill.
Ohio Oil President J.C. Donnell died in January 1927 at the age of 72. Donnell’s son, O.D., succeeded him as head of the firm.
In memory of the elder Donnell, his family erected Donnell Memorial Stadium on Baldwin Avenue, adjacent to Donnell Middle School. A recreational area included tennis courts and a wading pool. For many years, people used the pool’s spring water for medicinal purposes.
Findlay’s public school system had been modernized a few years earlier with the adoption of a junior-senior high school system. Donnell and Glenwood schools were built for seventh, eighth and ninth grades, and an addition was constructed at the senior high for older students.
Mrs. Charles C. Peale, mother of noted clergyman Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, served on the school board at the time. She was responsible for selecting the mottos that were carved into the faces of the buildings.
Civic leaders delighted in Findlay’s progress. But the city also suffered from growing pains.
The sewage problem had become so bad by the end of World War I, the state board of health ordered that a disposal plant be built. Municipal funds were not available at the time, so the city requested and was granted several extensions. In 1927, voters approved a $350,000 bond issue for the plant’s construction.
The decade also saw the end of the old Findlay, Fort Wayne and Western Railroad. Findlay was the eastern terminus of the line. The depot stood at the corner of Main and Sixth streets.
Findlay’s first complete air service was established in 1928. Brothers Harry and Earl Rummell leased 120 acres of land on the Benjamin farm southwest of town. They tore down the house and barn, put the field in shape and built a hangar. The field was inaugurated on Memorial Day.
The Hancock County Children’s Home was organized early in the decade. In 1925, voters approved funds for a new children’s home on North Main Street between Stanley and Tioga avenues to replace a condemned structure in West Park. The facility was used as a receiving home for children until boarding homes could be found.
A $50,000 armory was constructed late in the 1920s to provide quarters for guardsmen of Company C of the Ohio National Guard. Findlay was one of three cities approved for armories that year by Franklin D. Henderson, adjutant general of Ohio. The building was located on East Crawford Street near East Street.
At Findlay College, work on a new gymnasium was completed. The Griffith Memorial Arch also was erected in memory of Caddie A. Griffith, a 1909 graduate who taught at the Findlay College academy and headed the English department. She died in 1923. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. F.H. Griffith, provided funds for the memorial arch. A few years later, an iron post was embedded in the sidewalk beneath the arch to discourage students from driving up the sidewalk to Old Main on the “Findlay College Turnpike.”
Several community organizations were established during the decade, including the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, and the Camp Fire Girls.
A Boy Scouts council also was formed in Findlay and then expanded to include Hancock, Putnam and Seneca counties. The Camp Berry camp south of the city was given to the group in 1928 by Mr. and Mrs. R.J. Berry.
Findlay saw a change in voting practices in 1920. Women were given the right to vote on all election issues, following the successful ratification of the suffrage amendment to the Constitution. Until that time, women were only allowed to vote for members of boards of education.
Movies with soundtracks, the “talkies,” came to Findlay in 1928. Owners of the Harris Theater announced they had secured exclusive rights to the Vitaphone, described “as the most wonderful device of the century in the field of synchronizing motion pictures and sound.”
The first talking picture in Findlay’s history was seen and heard on Jan. 30 when Metropolitan opera star Martinelli performed on film, accompanied by a 107-piece symphony orchestra. A week later, the first full-length talking movie, “The Jazz Singer” starring Al Jolson, was shown.
Around 1920, the county fair was moved from the southern edge of the city to the Findlay Driving Park. A grandstand and racetrack were already at the site, located between the Riverside Park reservoir, McManness Avenue and Woodworth Drive. The Hancock County Fair Co. added more buildings and held fairs there until 1923. A $40,000 debt prevented the event from opening in 1924.
The decade also marked the end of the chautauqua movement in Findlay. The last season was held in 1929.
In 1922, entertainer Tell Taylor left the bright lights of New York and Chicago to return to Hancock County. Taylor lived on the East Sandusky Street farm that he had purchased several years earlier for his aged mother. He converted part of land into a public golf course.